Monday, June 20, 2011

Learning to listen to myself

I'll be the first to admit that I am stubborn.  I will ignore all the signals my body sends until it is far too late.  For nearly two years while at FSU, I told myself that I was only getting out of breath because I was overweight, and if I would just stick with it, the walking would get easier and I'd be stronger for just pushing through. 
For someone who prides herself in always being honest, oh, how I lie to myself.

It's not quite the same these days.  When I don't listen to my body, it retaliates by sending a stronger signal - along the lines of excruciating pain.  Why, then, would I continue to push myself beyond my limits?  Because I'm stubborn.  I tell myself that if I don't -try- to do things, I'll never know if I can or not.  The problem with this is that when I realize I cannot, I don't stop.  Instead, I get angry with myself for being weak and force myself to continue... until the pain hits.

Pain.  In waves of super-heated electro-shock cascading cataclysms that roll throughout my body.  It would be alright if it were isolated.  If my abdomen was the only thing that hurt, then I would be able to isolate that particular pain and deal with it.  My body knows this.  And being the rebellious body that it is, it gives me not only the gut-wrenching cramps and shooting/stabbing pains, but it pulls other muscle groups into the fun and games as well.  Calves cramp up, shoulders lock, jaw seizes... and then, just when I think it cannot get any worse, I'm hit with a headache that starts at the base of my skull and radiates up and out.  My eyes burn and go bloodshot, my sinuses, not to be outdone, swell and congest.

What was so important that I let it get this bad?  Laundry.  I sorted exactly 3 loads of laundry.  Not washed three loads.  Sorted them.  I bent over, scooped the clothes into a basket, then dispersed them into whites-and-lights, reds and darks.  It wasn't even all the laundry.  Honestly, it didn't make much of a dent at all.  But the clothes were in my way.  And I let my frustration push me into a series of bend-and-stretch motions that I should have known better than to attempt.  And when it started to hurt, I got angry.  And using that anger as fuel, I finished sorting those three loads. 

And then I curled up on the bed and tried not to whimper.  No, I still wouldn't allow myself to acknowledge the weakness within.  Instead... I folded laundry that had already been washed.  Folded it.  Put it on hangers.  Got up and stretched to hang those clothes up where they belong. 

Did I listen to myself at that point?  No.  Of course not. 

Instead, we went over to my mother-in-law's house where I ironed a garment that I want to duplicate.  Then got down on the floor and laid out kraft paper... and made the pattern from the garment.  Let me reiterate.  I got down on the floor.  On the floor.  And crawled around.  And reached, and stretched, and pulled.

And then I sat down for a bit. 

But then we came home.  And I folded some more laundry and put it away.  Actually, one of the loads I'd sorted earlier, that Peter had washed and dried.

And then I let myself lie down.

Peter went to sleep fairly quickly.  He has an early schedule lately because his new job starts at 4am.  He gets up around 2 and leaves the house shortly after 3.  So we have been going to bed around 7 to 7:30pm. 

Peter slept.  I ... made lists.  Well, I did a couple of pen-and-paper puzzles first.  Then I made lists.

I made a list of the projects that we need to finish around the house and property.

I made a list of the things we need to buy in order to finish those projects.

I made a wish-list of groceries.  I know that sounds kind of odd.  It started off as a list of things I'd like to get back in stock in my pantry (which is pretty barren these days) once everything settles down financially.  It ended up being a list of "what would I buy if I could just go into the grocery store and not worry about how much it cost?"

And at the point when I put "milk" on the grocery wish-list, I realized that we are in no financial position to do the majority of the projects that need doing.

Unfortunately, some of those projects are important and relatively urgent.  My truck is sick.  Sick enough that she's parked until we can afford the new rack-and-pinion and power steering pump that she needs.  The living room needs to be cleared out so we can do necessary repairs and seal the floor so the puppies can have a decent amount of space again.  The living room was nearly done - until I had Peter move some boxes off a long shelf in our bedroom ... out to the living room.  And now those boxes need to be gone through and mostly recycled or discarded.  Why did I have the boxes moved?  Because our momma dog, Morgana LeFay, is going into heat and we'd rather not have another litter of puppies.  She (and her beau, Stitch) are getting a little old for that sort of thing.  But that meant we needed to re-hang our bedroom door.  Now that's a long story.  Suffice it to say, it sounded like a good idea at the time.  But to re-hang the door, we needed to take down the shelf supports that were blocking the doorway.  And thus, the shelf was destabilized and needed to be cleared off.  And this is how one simple project turns into thirty.

And this is what I think about when I'm lying there, listening to Peter snore, trying to ignore the fact that pain continues to radiate throughout my body.

And suddenly it's 2 am.  Time for Peter to get up.  And what the heck, I may as well stay up since it doesn't seem like I'll be able to sleep anytime soon anyway.  And that's how it gets to be 8 am, with my back complaining about sitting up at the computer for so long, and the washing machine beeping at me to switch over loads, and my abdomen protesting whenever I shift - much less get up.  And the puppies are waking up and wanting walks.  And after I let them out... and get them back in... and double-count because some of them are sneaky... I think I'm going to start listening to myself. 

I think, after the puppies are settled, I'm going to ignore the washer (it's a stacked set, so I have to squat to remove the load ... then stretch up to put it into the dryer) and instead of tackling dishes or boxes... I'm going to make myself lie down and close my eyes.  I'm going to put away my lists.  I'm going to try... try... try... to not think -quite- so much, and let my brain relax.  And maybe, just maybe, I'll take a nap.  Hopefully one that doesn't last all day.

One day I will learn to listen to myself.  I'll learn to stop when it just starts to hurt.  I'll forgive myself for being ill.  I'll understand that it isn't weakness to slow down or even stop.  One day.

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